A functional rainsuit is a staple of any motorcyclist worth his road salt -- a must-have if you want to ride when you want to ride, where you want to ride. Yet we often buy our rain togs as an addendum to more prominent duds. We think, "Oh, this will get me home...or to the hotel." But what about "This one will allow me to ride for a week in the rain" or "This reflective one will keep me safe in a late-night drizzle."
Rainsuits are not all the same. Some are fine for weekend warriors on the run -- those $9.99 jobs on the mannequin at the local hardware store could be all you need. But for those who want to invest a little forethought, a rainsuit can offer physical comfort and freedom from the forecast. And best of all, when you shop around as we have here, you'll find the best rain duds are sometimes far from being the most expensive.
Key Shopping Points - Reflective inserts and bright colors are key safety assets in low-visibility situations.
- A one-piece suit eliminates drafts and is often cheaper, but it's usually a bear to put on (especially since you are usually in a hrry) and lacks the versatility of jacket and pant options.
- Foot entry needs to be generous or you'll be rolling around on the side of the road.
- Collars should be high and jacket back hems low.
- Wrist and ankle closures should be greatly adjustable.
- Make sure you buy big so you can wear it over cold-weather riding gear.
- The fewer seams the better.
- A mesh lining will make the suit easier to slip on and provide air circulation.
- Size matters when it comes to vents, but here, smaller is better.
Well, this suit probably won't do you much good in the case of a tsunami, since that occurrence involves a massive wave of water, but this new item from Belstaff is sure to keep you dry in the event of normal skyborne precipitation. The shell is made from high-quality nylon and is lined with a polyurethane coating backed by a mesh liner to prevent sticking and assist air circulation. The Tsunami is available in blue, red, yellow and black (pants are available in black only), and all styles incorporate a minimal amount of reflective piping down the back. There are three pockets in all, a cinch for the waist and an adjustable crotch strap. We like these crotch straps for a variety of reasons and find them especially pleasant on rainsuits, since they keep the jacket back from riding up and introducing a chilling breeze.
stitched/sealed seams, sizes XS - XXXL, mesh liner, 1 other style/$110
Packability 3, ease of entry (N/A), closures 3.5, comfort 3, pockets 3.5, visibility 2.5, overall 3.5
Sold separately, this jacket and pant combo features an advanced waterproof/breathable membrane called Aero-Tex, which is similar to Gore-Tex in its properties yet far more affordable. This inner liner, which is sandwiched between a soft taffeta inside and a lightweight nylon outer shell, allows moisture build-up inside the suit to escape while keeping the larger water molecules outside. A three-way gusset system seals the main opening, and outer pockets have double flaps. Hook-and-loop closures secure all entry points, and the neck features a comfy corduroy liner. Inside the jacket you'll find a built-in fanny pack that doubles as a large storage pocket when you're wearing the suit. The pants as well as the jacket can be crammed in this storage pack once you're safe from the rain. Pants are black only, but the jacket is available in black/red/white or yellow/black. Unfortunately, there is no reflective detailing.
stitched/sealedseams, sizes XS - XXXL, taffeta liner, pouch, 4 other styles/$68 - $268.
Packability 4, ease of entry 2.5, closures 2.5, comfort 3.5, pockets 3, visibility 2.5, overall 3
Now here's an example of a relatively inexpensive suit that's ready to be ripped off the rack in a crisis situation. Like those sticky ponchos at 7-Eleven, it could almost be considered a disposable item, but then again, if you're not into braving heavy downpours, the Dowco's extreme light weight and packability make it a very companionable addition to your daybag. Flaws include a huge open vent at the shoulder blades that literally draws in water, a fragile shell that's prone to tearing and reflective "stripes" that are hardly conspicuous. The Dowco is also sticky and a real chore to get into unless you're wearing satin pajamas. (If you opt for a value-first suit that doesn't feature a non-stick inner liner or at least wide entry points, don't wait until you get wet before you try to put it on.) This Legend two-piece comes in black only and features nothing extraordinary beyond the budget-friendly price.
PVC material, welded seams, sizes S - XXL, hood, unlined, storage pouch.
Packability 4.5, ease of entry 1, closures 1, comfort 1, pockets 1, visibility 1.5, overall 1
This jacket and trouser system (also available as a one-piece for $100) is certain to keep you dry, although we do feel it costs a bit more than it's worth. It is laden with well-thought-out features though, beginning with the cut, which features a neckline that's taller in back to snuggle up to your helmet. In addition the jacket shell is a tad longer in back than in front so you can tuck it under your bum. Unlike many of the other rainsuits, the P.O.R. doesn't use any seams in the shoulder area, to negate the possibility of leakage in this hard-hit zone. A mesh lining and fairly large entry ports make it pretty easy to slip into. The heavy PVC-coated nylon requires stitched seams, which are heat sealed with waterproof tape. Trousers are bib-style to create an overlap, and length is exaggerated so the legs won't ride up. The P.O.R. comes in black only and reflectivity is limited to a single strip.
Nylon/PVC material, stitched/sealed seams, sizes XS - XXL, hood, mesh liner.
Packability 3, ease of entry 2.5, closures 2.5, comfort 3.5, pockets 3, visibility 2.5, overall 3
When you're looking at that showgirl Triumph suit for $4 bucks less than the run-of-the-mill-looking Firstgear suit you've got to wonder what makes the Rainman worth the big bucks. Ah, we don't have the answers. This is a fine rainsuit and the company that makes it -- Intersport Fashions West -- has plenty of experience building quality garments. It's made from polyurethane-coated nylon and backed with a full liner to enhance comfort and ease of entry. There's an integrated storage sack so you can bundle the works when it's not raining, and dual adjustable cinches to snug up the waist. The Rainman is comfortable, well made and easy enough to put on, but we definitely think it's overpriced for its features. And now that we're bitching, how about a little more reflectivity than what's found on the small logo? Available colors are black with red, yellow or gray or plain black.
Nylon/polyurethane material, stitched/sealed seams, sizes XS - XXXXL, nylon lining, pouch, 2 other styles/$32 - $52
Packability 3.5, ease of entry 3, closures 3, comfort 3, pockets 2.5, visibility 3.5, overall 2.5
America's leading motorcycle manufacturer offers an incredible assortment of quality riding gear, and more and more, folks who aren't patrons of the bikes themselves are turning to the Motorclothes line for their apparel needs. It helps that Harley has toned down much of its licensed merchandise to include more subtle logos. Of course the huge bar and shield on the back of this super-quality rainsuit isn't a very good example, but the fact is, this is a fine suit that will keep you dry and comfy no matter what you ride. And it has several key features not found on other available suits, including a nifty nonslip butt panel to prevent you from sliding on the seat (you know the feeling) and heat-resistant inserts on the inner legs to help you avoid melting your suit to the exhaust (been there too, huh). There's also a helmet-friendly hood, and there are gracious openings for booted feet. It's black only with orange and reflective detailing, and, like everything Harley, it's expensive, and that costs this suit brownie points in our book.
Coated nylon material, stitched/sealed seams, sizes XXS - XXXL, hood, stirrups, nylon liner, storage pouch, 7 other styles/$48 - $450
Packability 3, ease of entry 3.5, closures 3.5, comfort 4, pockets 4, visibility 2, overall 3
This is a friendly, feature-intensive suit that will keep you dry and comfy in anything from mild summer downpours to short stints in severe rain and wind. And look at that price -- we frankly couldn't believe it cost so little. We like the color choices of this PVC-coated polyester number too (blue, yellow, red or black with black), and the reflective stripes, although thin, are quite bright. There are small vents under the arms and on the back to let the suit breathe, but remember that any open vents will bring in water, especially if you ride with a windshield, which causes back and side spray. There is a partial mesh interior in the jacket, which helps circulate air, but none for the sleeves or pants, which would make the suit a lot easier to slip on over riding gear. However, the leg entries do offer a generous 17-inch-long zippered gusset, allowing even the largest of clodhoppers respectable passage.
Poly/PVC material, weldedseams, sizes S - XXL, welded mesh liner (partial), 2 other styles /$43 - $60
Packability 2, ease of entry 4, closures 3, comfort 3.5, pockets 3.5, visibility 3.5, overall 4.5
This suit has been through many a rainstorm with the Motorcycle Cruiser staff, and we've always been pleased with its performance. Its visibility factor is quite high (we always opt for the yellow/gray/black version), and it's relatively easy to get into, although the mesh lining is prone to ripping if you're not gentle when you're ramming those boots into it. We feel mesh linings work better when they are actually tacked to the shell. The Elite outer is made from sturdy nylon backed with polyurethane, and all seams are heat-sealed in a five-step process. The corduroy-lined collar is comfortable, and the hook-and-loop flap closing it offers ample adjustment to accommodate multiple layers. Small vents under the arms and on the back of the jacket allow for cooling without inviting torrents of rain. This year, the Elite offers optional heat-resistant Nomex leg panels to keep you from goobering your hot parts when your rubber melts.
Nylon/polyurethane material, stitched/sealed seams, sizes XXS - XXXL, mesh liner, 3 other styles/$20 - $80
Packability 2.5, ease of entry 5, closures 4, comfort 4, pockets 4, visibility 4.5, overall 4.5
Ah, this is the creme de la creme -- the most mouth-watering rainsuit we've seen of late. Bells and whistles galore, reflectivity to stop a train and innovative full zip-open access -- and it's only 100 bucks (we saw it for $93 on www.motorcyclesinternational.com). The dazzling Chevron suit is made for those of us who don't like to put away our bikes when it rains -- and don't even like to let them sit idle for more than a few seconds while we slip into protective gear. Made from quality nylon and backed with polyurethane, the Chevron boasts two full-length zippers that allow you to literally step into the suit and zip it shut (a dream situation for those of us who've hopped and rolled around on the side of the road). Yes, the zippers portend potential penetration, but Triumph has addressed the problem with double gussets and hearty hook-and-loop closures. Needless to say, we favor this suit and its jazzy nature. It places second only to the Nelson-Rigg outfit and its unbeatable bang for the buck. And the Chevron packs away in its own fanny pack.
Nylon/polyurethane material, stitched/sealed seams, sizes XS - XXL, nylon liner (partial), pouch, 1 other style /$102
Packability 2.5, ease of entry 5, closures 4, comfort 4, pockets 4, visibility 4.5, overall 4.5
Branded Rainsuits Aplenty
Except for BMW, Harley-Davidson and Triumph, the major motorcycle manufacturers typically offer branded suits of low- to mid-range integrity simply because they can sell an awful lot of 'em. Almost all of these suits are manufactured for the companies by Intersport Fashions West (IFW), a mega apparel producer out of California that ghost-sews much of the major manufacturers' leather goods as well (in addition to its own line of Firstgear and Hein Gericke-labeled apparel). Luckily, IFW has high standards and seems incapable of producing trash. Therefore the medium-priced rainsuits bearing labels of Honda and Suzuki, Yamaha and Victory will keep you dry for extended periods and won't fall apart from prolonged exposure to the wind. These suits are typically made from coated vinyl and don't feature many bells and whistles beyond nice closure systems, some reflectivity and those proud logos.
Each season we see more Gore-Tex-equipped rainsuits becoming available to riders, and as with all techy trends, the cost of these garments has become more reasonable over time. What was once a $400 to $500 purchase now requires an investment in the neighborhood of $200 to $300. Why Gore-Tex? While many "waterproof/breathable" materials have joined the hunt for superior comfort and versatility, Gore-Tex is still the proven leader in this category, its reputation driven by millions of outdoor enthusiasts who will wear nothing less. The concept is about microscopic pores that are large enough to release moisture vapor yet too small to let in water molecules or wind. This allows sweat to escape the garment, for comfort in a variety of temperatures and moisture conditions. Gore-Tex isn't perfect at its job, and like the copycat membranes, its protective properties can deteriorate over time. The primary advantage of Gore-Tex over similar textiles is the inflexible standards its licensed use demands. A product that carries the name is subject to rigorous testing and must include the materials and methods that surround the name brand (specifically sewing methods, threads, tapes and coatings). Gore-Tex suits are the most comfortable, luxurious rainsuits around. We've tested and adored samples from Cycleport (formerly Motoport) and Harley-Davidson, and we recommend the investment. Here's the latest Gore-Tex entry straight from Bavaria, with a comparative look at the suits we've previously featured.
BMW KLIMA KOMFORT SUIT $330
Krispy Kremes and Klima Komfort -- unpersuasive names that front very cunning treats. BMW offers some of the very finest riding apparel in the world -- hard-core stuff, never overstated, always functional. On the hanger, this could be your papa's windbreaker, but one touch tells a very modern story. The outer shell is made from Taslan, a poly fabric that was chosen for its abrasion resistance as much as its supple feel (it's also machine washable). Features include large swatches of reflective material, bonded seams, a high collar, an adjustable waist belt, a storage pouch and rubber-coated buttons to protect your bike's finish. We wish the Klima Komfort came in a less mundane and more visible color (dark blue is the only option) and that it featured a more secure main opening (no hook-and-loop, just a zipper and double flap with snaps). We have tested other Gore-Tex options in the past and found Harley-Davidson's offering, simply called the Gore-Tex Jacket and Pants, to be the honey of the bunch. Its superior style, comfort and visibility make it the most worthy, although the price ($450) is a bit extreme. Cycleport (formerly Motoport) also offers a suit lined with Gore-Tex and named for it. It's a bargain in comparison for $280. How does the Klima Komfort stack up? Well, like Krispy Kremes, there is undeniable enticement -- but they really don't look that good when you're wearing them.
You can reach the author at Andy.Cherney@sourceinterlink.com.